Going To Pieces
During my fifth grade year, my mother enrolled my sister and me in an after-school program at a local church, which was run by the YMCA. This was different than the days before, which required only that we walk home and start to play. There was a big bus that picked us up at the school and carried us right passed our house, to the place where several other kids gathered for some awkward social experiment that allowed my mother to work later hours. We had a snack, played some games, and spent time with our friends. After a few hours, my mother would pick us up and ask about our day.
A few momentous things happened in that program. I both received, and gave, my first kiss. It was incredibly innocent and sweet all at the same time. I got in my first fight, although I never threw a punch. I learned the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite. I found out what it was like to feel remorse after being mean to a friend. What had the most impact on my life, however, was spending time with a counselor in the program, whose name I do not recall.
He was most likely in college and simply working part time to help pay for books. He was cool in a way only a teenager in the 70’s could be. He hung out with us and did nothing but play childish games, in a bit of a childish way, and talked to my friends and me as if we were important. As if, we mattered, in some strange way. My mental image of what he looked like has faded over the years and the only thing I remember now, other than the way his paying attention to us felt, is that he could throw a Nerf football in a perfect spiral and further than I ever dreamed a foam object could be hurled.
When I attended the University of Tennessee, my time after class was spent doing the same thing. Not for the YMCA, but with a Methodist church a mile or two from campus. I never mastered throwing a football, but I tried to replicate the feeling I had as a child, in the kids I was lucky enough to hang out with. I went in early to play tag with the toddlers, I drove a 15 passenger van to pick up the students, we had snack, and I played. Inside on rainy days, outside on sunny days. Some of the kids wanted me to babysit after work and their parents obliged. During the summers, I did the same thing with children in Falls Church, Virginia. They called it an internship at the church that paid to house me, but any learning I did was done on the playground and not in the sanctuary.
There have always been children in my life. From nieces and nephews, to step children, to those I am lucky enough to have worked with. There have always been people of any age, also, but children remind me of the Divine in a way that older folks do not. I think of it like athletes being interviewed just after a big win. They seem excited. None of what happened up until that point matters and they are just happy for the experience. If you interviewed them in the off season, they might speak about all they are doing to get ready for the next year. They might have rituals and routines they would share. They are working. Children seem to remember in some way that it was not that long ago that they made it into this world from a place filled with Love and Peace. They are not tied to the ritual and routine of living. They are not working. They are still celebrating a win.
The irony is that I have no biological children. It was not meant for me. The absolute joy is that I have hundreds of children. Some I have seen lately and some I may never see again. One child I have seen lately is Carter. Though he hates this description, he is biologically a second cousin to my wife. He has lived with us for almost seven years and we both agree on the better description of him as my son. Yesterday, I came into my small office at home, and found that he had rushed into the room after we arrived, sat at my drawing table, and began to draw. I was overwhelmed with the thought that though I may never have a “mini-me”, there are pieces of me running all over the world because I took time to listen, show kindness, and speak with compassion, to children.
My name may not be remembered, my face may not be recognized, but I have been a part of the welcome party for children for years. I have helped them ease into living and not be shocked by the difference in from where they came and where they ended up. I am on the transition team. Helping souls accomplish what they have come here to achieve and offering some of the kindness of heaven to those who are getting used to this world. What is important for me to remember, is that while their arrival may be a few years later than mine, and while their development into human beings is in a different stage, their spirit, and my spirit, in human forms, were and are connected in some mystical way. And before a worry arises in you that I am unorthodox, or that I think outside the bounds of organized religion, let me assure that I both of those things.
Our obligation to develop children as humans is evident. We must teach them to brush their teeth. We must teach them to tie their shoes. Sometimes, we must even teach them that touching a hot stove is not in their best interest. What we must never do, is instruct their souls on what is the proper way to express their spirituality. It is as simple as learning from what they have to say or do, as well as teaching them what we think we know about how to get along on this journey from our very short experiences on earth. What we will be remembered for is not how we threw a Nerf football, but that we took the time to throw a Nerf football.
At times, I reflect on what I might have accomplished in life. My hope is that some thirty year old woman is watching a cartoon with her child and remembers the times some guy drew monsters for her class after school. My hope is that a twenty-eight year old man thinks of a time he felt special on a playground outside a church as he picks up a kickball his son kicked a little wide. And as for those grandparents out there, that watched their babies have babies, my hope is that they remember a smile, or a positive word about their children, that some goofy college kid shared so many years ago. These are not grand hopes. They are my hopes.
And as for those I will meet today? As for those that read this blog? As for those that have worked with me and who care for me and who interact with anything I have created or done? I wish for them the sense that they are okay. That they are, in some way, perfect, whole, and complete. When I work to train people for positions in my industry, I do not assume there is work to be done, even though there is work to be done. I do not assume that they have missed the mark of our culture, though we all have missed the mark of our culture. What I assume, is that we will be better. Both those I train and me. We will be better.
We may all have a destiny, but that is none of our business. God may love us completely. Let that be God’s business. We will realize our destiny and experience the love of God by doing simple acts of kindness and compassion, and in this way leave pieces of ourselves in the world. We may, as the creators of such things, be remembered, or we may not, but we will have given birth to the possibility of countless acts of the same deeds being done. We will change the world by what we create in simple ways and in unimportant moments.
What is in it for me? What might be in it for you? At the same time, my response is both everything and nothing. My guess is you have affected people in positive ways most of your life. Not because you were always positive, but because the Universe uses both positive and negative things to create the positive. That is all it does. It does not create negative. It is only our resistance to the positive that we are confident in calling a thing negative. And what did the Universe do so many years ago that was all that positive, anyway? It created you. No matter how you feel, or what you perceive your life to be, you are a big win for the Creator of all things. Leave pieces of that positive in everything you do. And if you need to remember that you are more than what you have in a bank account, do to generate income, or call what you think you own, take a few deep breaths and smile, all with a knowing that things are not the same as they were, and they will not remain the same as they are now. This is the way of peace.